Understand the assignment

In your essay, you will describe a historic place. This is similar to a writing task you might need to do for a history class. You can focus on describing the place itself or its events/changes that occurred. 

You can choose to either write a more formal essay about the event or write more creatively about it. 

Your essay should be 1-2 pages long, double-spaced. This is not a traditional five-paragraph essay. The goal of this writing task is to provide as much description as possible in a limited amount of space. For this assignment focus on quality, not quantity. It is actually much harder to write in a shorter amount of space, so this is good practice for learning to write with academic concision.


Remember that after you do enough preliminary research to brainstorm and choose your focus, you should do more detailed research about your topic so that you can make your outline.  


A Google search for a general topic like "famous places" might be a good place to start if you aren't sure who you want to write about.

Example categories could include the following:

  • Historic places
  • Famous places
  • Most visited places
  • Most admired places
  • Most beautiful places

Choose your focus

Because this essay will be a maximum of 2 pages long, make sure to focus in your description on one aspect of the event you will describe. You will not be able to describe every single detail about such a historical place in just 2 pages, so instead focus on describing one aspect really well.  Do not attempt to include more than one of the following in an essay of this length.

Focused description ideas

  • Physical characteristics
  • Personality
  • Events
  • Accomplishments
  • Anecdote (short story that shows rather than tells us about the place)


Start with your thesis. What is the most important information you want to share about this place? Then consider how many paragraphs you will write (about 3 paragraphs total will fit in 2 pages double-spaced). What descriptions best support your thesis? Use those descriptions as your topic sentences.

Add questions or quotes to help you develop each of your ideas. Think specifically about how to introduce your audience to the place they do not know.  Even if you chose a well-known place as your topic, approach your descriptive piece as if you know your audience has never heard of that place. Pretend that your descriptive piece is the first they have heard about it. 


Your introduction should start immediately with a thick description. A thick description means that rather than saying a simple fact with basic words, you will create an image with your words. You can paint a picture in the minds of the readers with the words you use to describe the place. 

Simple: "Tinamen Square was known for its opposition." 

Thick Description: "Tinamen Square is a place full of histroy that provides a glimpse of standing for rights, freedom, and equality."

Do not attempt to tell every single detail of the event in your short descriptive piece. Do not attempt to create an entire life history in your short essay.

You will need to give some background information on the topic in the introduction. However, keep the word count limit in mind and keep the background information general, so you have more room to describe the topic in detail in the body paragraphs. 

At the end of your introduction paragraph, you should give your thesis. The thesis should describe the person in very specific terms.


Places can become famous due to the historic events that has occured.

At the end of your introduction, you should state your thesis. The thesis should describe the person in specific terms.

Although there were many oppositions, Tinamen Square became a well-known place due to a man's act of bravery leading to a changes in freedom, rights, and equality.

Effective Thesis Statement Review

An effective descriptive thesis statement...

  • addresses the prompt if there is one* (i.e., answers the question).
  • is usually at the end of the introduction paragraph.
  • controls the content of all of the body paragraphs.
  • is a complete sentence.
  • does not announce the topic (e.g., "I'm going to talk about Genghis Khan Unifying the tribes of Mongolia.").
  • should not simply be a fact (e.g., "Sugar plantations were in Hawaii.").
  • should not be too general (e.g., "World War 1 had a large impact on history."). 
  • should not be too specific (e.g., "In 1867,  Alaska was purchased to much derision from the press from Russia by the United States for around 7 million dollars which was about 2 cents an acre.").
  • may state or imply main points (e.g., "The Chernobyl accident caused irreparable environmental and social damage, but this gave the people an opportunity to become stronger in their unity and courage to serve no matter what. " vs. " The Chernobyl accident caused irreparable damage, but this gave the people an opportunity to become stronger.").


Your body paragraphs should give reasons and evidence to support your thesis. As you outline your body paragraphs, make sure you include clear topic sentences that support your thesis.

Shorter essays may only need 1-3 body paragraphs. Longer essays may need more body paragraphs. 

Consider the following example:

This short essay only has two body paragraphs. When you have a fewer number of body paragraphs it is especially important that they are well developed with detail. For an essay that needs to fit a short page limit, writing about one or two topics deeply is better than writing about many topics only shallowly. 

As you plan each of your body paragraphs, remember that using sources will make your writing more credible and interesting. Use sources properly so that you do not plagiarize.


Your conclusion paragraph should start by restating your thesis. Then, you should write about the event in more general terms and apply their situation to the world more generally. End with a concluding statement.


Exercise 1: Analyze the Prompt

Prompt: Describe a famous or important location. Your essay should be 1 page double spaced. 

Answer the following questions to fully understand the prompt above. 

1. What verbs are being used? What task is this prompt asking you to do?

2. How narrow or general is the content that this prompt is asking you to write?

3. What are the constraints of this prompt?

Exercise 2: Evaluate thesis statements

How effective are each of these thesis statements?

  1. The cherry blossom garden in Japan is known for its beauty and I will show you how this is true in the following essay.
  2. The Bahamas, a famous destination spot that is very remarkable in every way will be discussed. 
  3. Mount Rushmore is a historic place that represents expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States.
  4. Beijing, China is one of the places most tourists go to for authentic food.
  5. Mount Everest is known as the tallest mountain.

Exercise 3: Short Essay Focus

Read the following prompt and brainstormed ideas. Then choose a topic and create a short outline.

Prompt: Describe a famous or important location. Your essay should be 1 page double spaced. 

Brainstormed Ideas in No Particular Order:

  • "The Maldives" is one of the most beautiful places for many reasons.
  • The reaction people have when they see "Banff" in Canada was mixed.
  • Nowadays, people tend to visit warmer places.
  • "Cancun" had an enormous impact when people constantly visit.



Exercise 4: Restate a thesis

Restate each thesis.

  1. Thesis: The Colosseum shows the importance of art and beauty.
  2. Thesis: The Great Wall of China consisted of bravery and hard work.

Exercise 5: Write a thesis

This student wrote a descriptive paper about William Shakespeare. Use the thesis statement to complete the outline.

Thesis: William Shakespeare is one of the most influential people because of his outstanding dramas, profound influence on the English language, and his continued influence on society.

    • TS 1:
    • TS 2:
    • TS 3:

Restated Thesis: 

Exercise 6: Peer Review

Give advice to the author of this student outline.

TH: Walt Disney was a famous businessman who founded Walt Disney Productions and had a significant impact on motion-picture production, animation, and pop culture.

  • TS: Motion-pictures production was an essential part of Walt Disney's impact.
    • SD: Walt Disney made some movies that combined animation and live-action.
    • SD: He made a lot of movies.
    • SD: The company still exists today.
  • TS: Walt Disney is recognized as an innovative animator.
    • SD: Used layered drawings to create dynamic animations.
    • SD: He made propaganda films during WWII.
  • TS: The invention of Mickey Mouse continues to have an impact on pop culture.
    • SD: Everyone knows who Mickey Mouse is.
    • SD: Walt Disney can never be forgotten because of this invention.

TH = Thesis Statement, TS = Topic Sentence, SD = Supporting Detail

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